It’s been a fascinating weekend, partly spent at the British Esperanto Conference, which is meeting in Llandudno. They’d invited me to preach at the “Diservo”, which I’d arranged to be at the splendid St John’s Methodist Church. Our hymns were all Esperanto translations of familiar hymns, and we chose Welsh tunes so although the congregation wasn’t huge, we did sing with gusto. Perhaps because its pronunciation is so logical, Esperanto is a remarkably easy language to sing in.
I tried to preached a proper sermon. Whether I succeeded or not is not for me to say, of course. The Old Testament reading was predictable enough, the account of the tower of Babel - a story which means a good deal to Esperantists. The gospel, though, came from the long ending of Mark’s gospel. It wasn’t what I’d suggested, but I didn’t check my draft order of service carefully enough and so my disorganisation gave me a bit of a conundrum. The sermon I had planned was around the notion of the eterna komencanto (”eternal beginner”), a notion which is well-established in Esperanto circles, and apply that to the call to Christian discipleship. However, I decided that a change in the gospel required a change to the homily, though for some while I was a bit stuck. After all, I’m not at all convinced that the long ending of Mark belongs in the canon (as I’m sure I’ve said before). So how could I preach on it?
The link I found between the two passages was that I don’t regard either of them as conveying any historical information of value, but both point to an essential truth. In the Babel myth, the Babelanoj do not only build their famous tower for the sake of their own glory, but because they feared to be scattered over the earth. In Mark, we have an account of Jesus commanding the disciples to be so scattered, for the sake of the gospel.
You might not agree that that’s a good and worthwhile link, but I was quite pleased with how the homily developed and it appeared to be well-received despite my hesitant delivery. (I was much more tied to my notes than I would have been in English)
I also discovered that though I regard myself as reasonably competent at writing and reading E-o, the fact is that my ability to converse is next to hopeless. Text is OK, but I haven’t had the exposure to actual speech necessary for conversation. Talking to actual people is different from listening to stuff on the interweb.
And I’ve a feeling there’s a sermon in that somewhere, too.
* Esperanto means “one who hopes”